There is an old saying that goes something like this: “Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation.”

As we all know, Lake Geneva has not had much luck in recent years when it comes to finding a way forward on the old Hillmoor Golf Course property.

But there may be a new opportunity soon to turn things around and get something going on the vacant 200-acre property.

All it takes is a little preparation.

That is why city officials are smart to send professional planners out to the Hillmoor property to come up with an acceptable blueprint for the future — before landowner White River Holdings LLC makes its next move.

The alternative to planning is perilous, to say the least. Wait for White River to come forward, and you could get a proposal that is impractical, unappealing or unworkable.

This is smarter. This is preparation.

Critics have urged city officials not to hire planners for the old golf course. Some have argued that city government has no business trying to guide future development of private property. Others have tried to make an issue of the amount of money that the city is spending on its planners — $29,500.

What some critics really want is to maintain the status quo on the vacant property. They fear the impact of building new homes or businesses on the old golf course. By making a fuss over $29,500 or by screaming that the city is overstepping its bounds, they hope to quash any movement toward development.

It is a strategy that has worked for years, unfortunately.

To their credit, a majority of Lake Geneva aldermen have gotten through these smokescreens and seen the wisdom of preparing for the future rather than just waiting for it.

Let us not forget what happened the last time city officials waited for something to happen on Hillmoor.

White River Holdings presented a blueprint that many in the community found objectionable. The anti-development crowd was loud enough to shut the process down. Before we ever really got to see the details of what was being proposed, city leaders caved in to the critics and sent White River packing.

Not surprisingly, the landowner responded with a $50-million lawsuit that accused the city of mishandling things. White River has now dropped the lawsuit and opened the door to new discussions about the future of the old golf course.

So, should city officials this time take a moment and spend a little money to figure out what sort of development would be acceptable? Of course, they should.

Keep in mind: This is not some inconsequential little vacant lot. This is a vast 200-acre expanse along one of the prime corridors in and out of Lake Geneva. City officials have a legitimate interest in ensuring that White River delivers a development plan that will benefit the community as well as the company.

This is an opportunity to stop hoping for good luck — and to take some responsibility for making it happen.

Still think it will happen by itself? Good luck with that.

Scott Williams is editor of the Lake Geneva Regional News.